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Witchcraft Accusations Prompt Large-Scale Response by African Theologians

Christian leaders aim to 'turn the tide on the modern epidemic.'

Christian leaders in Africa are answering God's call to care for the "least of these" in an unusual way: by protecting widows and orphans from surging accusations of witchcraft.

Approximately 50 international pastors and scholars–the majority from seven African nations–convened in Nairobi, Kenya, last month to address the growing problem. According to the Carl F. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), which sponsored the conference, "This historic gathering marks the first large-scale, international and interdenominational effort within the church and within the framework of Christian theology to address the growing presence of witch accusations and violence."

Elderly women and orphans are often blamed for death, infertility, and financial problems. Although some secular nonprofits have tried to stem the recent increase in accusations, the Nairobi conference examined causes (one contributing factor: Nollywood Christian movies) as well as theological and biblical responses to witchcraft.

Some current approaches may be counter-productive. For example, research in Malawi found that "when pastors pray for or attempt to exorcise accused 'witches' this sometimes has the effect of providing pastoral endorsement to the charge that they are witches, rather than freeing them in the eyes of the community," noted TEDS in a press release.

Meeting in small groups, participants shared case studies and identified theological and biblical themes that can inform our understandings of witchcraft, can help counter witch accusations, and can underpin pastoral counseling. ... Plans were brainstormed for further research and writing, for curricular development, for partnering together and with others to turn the tide on the modern epidemic of witch accusations and violence, and for finding additional funding to help make all this possible.

CT recently reported how missionaries in Africa might be encouraging witchcraft accusations. Other CT reporting on the topic of witchcraft includes a reflection from Nigeria's Sunday Agang on how too many African Christians fear it.

Related Topics:Africa
Posted:April 9, 2013 at 7:00AM
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